Scoping the Project:
In & Out of Scope Materials

Decisions about scope should start with details outlined in the Partnership for Shared Book Collections’ Best Practice for Collection Scope of Shared Collections, especially including that shared print programs should have a scope statement that defines the body of material to be protected in order of priority. The following guidance provides some examples of how monograph shared print programs have defined the scope of their collective collections.


Some scope decisions are best made at the outset of a project, for example, whether to include only print monographs or print journals and serials, or both. Factors that influence this include: programmatic priorities, bandwidth of program participations, limitations of collection analysis tools and services, and unique features of monograph and journal holdings data. While some programs, like the Eastern Academic Scholars’ Trust (EAST) and Maine Shared Collections Cooperative (MSCC), have focussed on both journals and monograph retention generally programs have been established with a focus on a particular material type.


Other scope decisions can be made later as part of a careful analysis of the program’s combined collection, for example, agreeing categories of materials (e.g. textbooks) that are out of scope. Scope can also evolve over time, for example, titles considered too new to be analyzed during an initial collection analysis project may be analyzed at a later date. Or as programs grapple with expanding their scope to include special collections copies. This document is not meant to advocate for what should be in or out of scope, rather give libraries a sense of what the landscape has been and may be evolving into.


To date most monograph shared print programs have decided to define in-scope as:


  • Print monograph titles only, while academic libraries are increasingly purchasing digital copies of titles, those titles are generally only licensed from external providers for local use only and therefore cannot be shared and relied upon for access by other libraries;

  • Circulating print monograph titles only, defined as copies of titles that can be easily shared via existing resource sharing networks and therefore can be relied upon by other participating libraries;

  • Titles considered to have long-term scholarly value, defined as titles that meet criteria for needing to be retained to meet both current and future scholarly needs;

  • Open ended going forward, with the goal that more titles will be considered for retention over time as programs carry out periodic collection analysis projects.

Some programs have additional criteria for what's considered in-scope including:



The following categories have been historically excluded by some programs (often at the suggestion of collection analysis vendors). At the same time, there are programs that have actively pursued content in these categories and shared print programs’ collection scope can evolve over time to include what has previously been excluded.


  • Non-circulating items e.g. those held in special collections that traditionally shared print programs have felt are likely to be retained anyway by libraries, so a shared print commitment is seen as unnecessary. Additionally, special collections items have not been available through existing resource sharing networks. However, both of these assumptions are beginning to be challenged as libraries reassess their special collections to identify deaccession candidates and increasingly make special collections items accessible through digitization and other means.

  • Collections of special libraries e.g. law, art, and music libraries, oftentimes these libraries are managed independently of the main campus library and often the materials they hold are out of scope for a shared print program (see below).

  • Government documents, most monograph shared print programs will attempt to exclude government documents from their scope, both as non-print monographs, but also because of an assumption that these titles are already being committed by regional repositories. However, HathiTrust is investigating a shared print program for Federal government documents. Additionally EAST has made the decision that state, local, and international government or quasi-government titles are not explicitly out of scope and they may not have the protection of other programs. Therefore EAST libraries are asked to keep the retention commitments already in place for these items.

  • Non-monographic material, such as maps, scores, theses, audio-visual materials, manuscripts, bound ephemera (e.g. pamphlets), serials, and journals are all generally out of scope for a monograph shared print program including for EAST, MSCC, and MI-SPI. However, SCELC has included circulating musical scores in their scope as their members felt they would be important to retain.

  • Juvenile fiction and non-fiction, some programs, like USMAI, have explicitly excluded juvenile titles from their collection analysis projects as members are unwilling to make commitments to such material, particularly if they no longer meet local curriculum needs. Other programs like SCLEC have included circulating juvenile materials in their scope. MSCC, which is unique in including many public library participants, while not excluding juvenile titles from their scope, have attempted to exclude publishers whose works quickly get dated and are likely to be in paperback format.

  • Mass produced paperback publishers, similarly to juvenile titles MSCC developed a list of paperback publishers whose works quickly become dated, are at a higher risk of being in poor physical condition, wouldn’t survive a 15-year retention period and would require replacing which libraries are hesitant to do.

  • Textbooks, guides, and reference material, while some of this material may have historical value, most libraries are unwilling to make long-term commitments to keeping titles that quickly become superseded. MSCC produced a list of publishers and keywords to remove the works of certain publishers of textbooks, guides and reference material from retention consideration.

  • Titles in a specific date range of publication date and/or date the title was added to a library’s print collection. Generally this refers to a decision to eliminate newer titles from retention consideration because programs don’t feel comfortable making retention decisions for titles without at least 5 years of history of holdings and usage data to compare. ConnectNY, MSCC, EAST, and SCLEC have all used publication cutoff dates in their retention scopes.


Example scope statements:



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Last Updated September 2021